Knitting has its roots in medieval Europe, but what’s known as the Fair Isle knitting technique really took off in the 1920s, as pullover sweaters became fashion for men, women, and children, instead of just utilitarian winter wear. “Vogue” and other women’s magazines began to print patterns for home knitters to follow. This trend lasted through the Great Depression of the 1930s, when it was more affordable for a grandmother or mother to make her family’s clothes. During World War II, Americans on the home front were asked to knit socks, sweaters, and mufflers to keep the soldiers warm, and the Red Cross provided the patterns.
A wide variety of new colors and types of yarn hit the American market in the 1960s, as did thousands of commercial knitting patterns reflecting the latest fashions. However, in the 1980s, machine-knitted clothing became cheaper and more widely available. The market for knitting supplies and patterns tanked as the craft was seen as a corny, dated pastime that lived on through craft fairs. In the 2000s, however, the movement toward more authentic and hand-made products has brought about a knitting revival.